A new set of images from NASA’s Chandra X-ray observatory shows us what we’ve never seen before.
The Pillars of Creation, 7,000 light years away in the Eagle Nebula, represents one of Hubble’s most iconic images.
The full nebula itself is a race: evaporative radiation from new stars fights against the active, ongoing star-formation from the nebula’s cool gas.
First observed by Hubble in the mid-1990s, our improved technology and the passage of time has given us an improved view of this system.
New stars are clearly being born, as stellar outflows and jets permeate the gas.
Near-infrared observations can see through the dust, revealing a glittering tapestry of young, hot stars inside.
But at longer wavelengths, cooler-temperature objects show up.
Mid-infrared light revealed that a diffuse heat source was warming the nebula, suggesting a recent supernova.
While the far-infrared showed where the gas is evaporating, we needed X-rays to know if the pillars were being destroyed.
As first revealed by Chandra over a decade ago, new stars can be seen forming inside the nebula, behind and inside the pillars.
Fortunately, Chandra has seen many supernova remnants; we know what they look like.
A superior, new X-ray view reveals only point sources: stars and stellar corpses.
There was no recent supernova. The pillars only evaporate slowly.
Mostly Mute Monday tells the astronomical story of an object, class, or phenomenon in images, visuals, and no more than 200 words. The original Chandra release can be found here. Talk less; smile more.Ethan Siegel is the author of Beyond the Galaxy and Treknology. You can pre-order his third book, currently in development: the Encyclopaedia Cosmologica.